The Good Soldier: Preparing for Battle
“Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.” – Martin Luther
The battle raging in the 21st century is for morality and ethics and the salvation and deliverance of souls. The battle is for our families, our community and our churches. The battle requires the Believer to embrace core values that are founded upon God’s Word and the Truth expressed in the Scriptures and it is the Apostle Jude who admonishes believers to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).
It is Jude’s exhortation for likeminded believers to enter into an arena or battlefield of conflict. The expression contend earnestly in the Greek is one word and actually is formed by the combination of two Greek words meaning “about” and “struggle” or “conflict.” The very root means “the place of conflict.” Jude exhorts believers to enter into the arena of conflict.
Not only is there a battle for what Jude describes as “the faith” but involves what can be described as intervention on behalf of believers who have fallen prey to the insidious and cancerous error of false doctrine. There are those who openly seek their prey while others do so under cover, having infiltrated the ranks and go undetected for who and what they really are and are embraced whole heartily.
It is spiritual warfare, but not only on behalf of the deceived, but by those enslaved by addictive life-styles and against all who oppose God and His Church. It is a battle for which the Prayer Warrior must be prepared.
Preparing for Battle
Before entering any arena, any battlefield, the soldier must first be prepared spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
The Good Soldier Prepares for Hardship
Immediately after enlisting in the Marines, my youngest son, Daniel, endured the hardships of Paris Island, without which he would not have survived two tours in Afghanistan. In the midst of “boot camp” they endured long marches, gassing, depravation of sleep and good food, the gauntlet and many other hardships but for good purpose.
Key to any soldier’s preparation is training for hardship. The rigors of the boot camp the modern warrior enlisting in military is designed to whip the soldier into to physical, emotional, and mental conditioning in order to engage in perhaps the most demanding and challenging encounter he or she may ever face in a life-time. This isn’t written to discourage the individual called to spiritual warfare, yet he or she must understand what to expect.
Paul writes to Timothy, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3). Paul’s invitation includes both an invitation to be like-minded in our approach to service in God’s Kingdom, and a warning – we engage in battle and suffering can be anticipated.
“Suffer hardship” means “to join in suffering, to assume one’s share of suffering, to suffer together.” The suffering may arise from external pressures but result in inward mental, emotional and/or spiritual anxiety and concern.
The Good Soldier Must be Single-minded
The criteria Paul requires is found in verse 4, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (emphasis added). No soldier can focus upon their purpose if they become entangled and weighed down in civilian pursuits. No soldier can perform their duties if their allegiances are divided. The good soldier must be single-minded.
Freedom from distraction enables the soldier to focus upon the agenda of the one who enlisted him. The good soldier must have a disposition to want to please the one who has given him/her their marching orders, to execute their plan. They have been trained to take orders from a superior rather than striking out on their own. This attitude preserves the objective and frees the mission from chaos. The soldier and commander are united by a single purpose, a single objective.
The Good Soldier is Spiritual
For some the purpose of spiritual warfare is the restoration of those who have succumbed to false doctrine and have fallen into sin. This was not only Jude’s concern but James’ as well. James writes that anyone turning a sinner from the error of his way saves the sinner’s “soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
As the Apostle Paul writes, however, anyone seeking to restore others must possess an essential quality: "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." (Galatians 6:1, emphasis added) It seems Paul recognizes not everyone in the congregation is on equal footing when it comes to spirituality, and only the spiritual should engage in restoration.
The Prayer Warrior’s purpose also includes the destruction of strongholds in the lives of the people, communities, churches, and nations. Only the spiritual should in engage in such endeavors.
By contrasting the spiritual with those operating in the flesh, the Apostle Paul defines the spiritual as those who are not of the flesh meaning they who are of the flesh are spiritually immature and unable to receive solid foodbut milk (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).
As the Apostle Peter and the author of Hebrews suggest, for the “new born” believer milk is essential for spiritual establishment and growth (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:2), Hebrews 5:14 points out, "... solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14).
The battle involved in spiritual warfare is not for the immature but only for those who are indeed spiritual in thought and attitude. Discerning between good and evil is essential.
Note first the mature through “…practice have their senses trained…” Through rigorous mental discipline, discerning/judging between good and evil is an acquired ability. Through vigorous training the good soldier acquires the ability to discern between good and evil, or friend and foe.
The emphasis is suggestive. In post-modern times the passage paints a picture of the vigorous training the athlete engages in the gym. It involves hitting the weights, cardio, and proper nutrition. It requires personal dedication and discipline.
As any soldier or dedicated athlete can attest, Hebrews 12:11 message rings true: "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
For the moment discipline isn’t fun but difficult to endure; yet in the end all who have trained receives the reward of their efforts. For the Prayer Warrior, as we shall see, produces the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
The Apostle Paul’s words found in 1 Timothy 4:6-7 provide a training regimen useful for the Prayer Warrior in training:
In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…
FOCUS: Nourished on the Words of Faith & Sound Doctrine
The post-modern world in which the Prayer Warrior lives is filled with volumes of books and studies designed to offer insights and teachings which are designed as Biblical self-helps. Knowing the Word itself, however, is the best thing a Prayer Warrior can do. Focus upon the Word of God and Sound Doctrine.
John writes we should “test the spirits” because there are many false prophets who have fallen prey to the influence of “anti-christs” who oppose God (1 John 4:1f). They may be charismatic characters who sound good and promise great things if you will feed and feast upon their teachings. Too many athletes try to enhance their ability and looks by “juicing” on illegal steroids and other supplements that in the end offer more than disappointment, but tragically for many illness and even death.
The only way to test their teachings is to know what you know to be true – The Word of God. A steady diet of reading the Word of God – the Law and the Prophets, the Gospels and the Apostolic Writings nourishes the soul and mind. As Hebrews 4:12 reveals:
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (emphasis added)
As will be examined, the Word of God becomes a vital piece of equipment in the Prayer Warrior’s arsenal.
FOCUS: Discipline Yourself for the Purpose of Godliness
The Prayer Warrior disciplines oneself for Godly Purposes. The goal is to bring reverence, awe, and respect for God and the things of God – His Word, His Preferences, His People, His Goals.
In a world where the focus is upon personal agendas – including ministries, a world where gathering possessions, finding fulfillment through pleasure, and all the trappings of a worldly attitude seeking fulfillment in a carnival of attractions, it is easy to see why one must exercise discipline if they are to accept Godly Purposes.
Equipped for Discernment
Further, Paul describes the spiritual as spiritually discerning, an attribute reflecting a mature relationship with the Holy Spirit. He writes,
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one." (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)
The word appraised is from the Greek word suggesting a judicial investigation. That which is being investigated is to be done spiritually, that is with the aid of the Holy Spirit.
The Spiritually Mature individual has developed a relationship with the Holy Spirit, a relationship through which the Spirit checks the heart and directs the mind. It is through the Holy Spirit we are able to “test the spirits” of false teachers (1 John 4:1) and are taught and receive God’s word and truth (John 14:28; 16:13-14)
Also, because the “things of the Spirit” can only be understood by the spiritual, it is ludicrous to try to explain things to the immature believer, and the world, who cannot understand, to argue when they will only resist. The only appropriate approach is through prayer and proclaiming the Word and allow the Spirit do His work of convincing, and convicting, the unbeliever. We can proclaim but it is the Spirit’s role to convict the hearer of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11)
FOCUS: Walking in the Spirit (and winning the personal battle)
The Apostle Paul reveals the first battle the Prayer Warrior must face is personal and internal – the war between his flesh and the Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit Who provides life for the Believer (Romans 8:11). And it is through the Spirit we “are putting to death the deeds of the body” and are freed from “living according to the flesh” and through Him “you will live.” Therefore “all who are being led by the Spirit of God” are regarded as the “sons of God.” (Romans 8:11-14)
Paul reiterates this thought in Galatians:
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:16-17)
The Apostle emphasizes the initial battle the Prayer Warrior must engage is created internally as the flesh and the Spirit contend for supremacy (vv. 18). Galatians 5:22 records the character exhibited by those who determine to “walk” in the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
Paul further declares if we have life in the Spirit, or “live by the Spirit,” then we should also “walk by the Spirit.” In other words, the life we live out before the world should correspond to the inner life we have received from the Spirit.
They key to allowing the Spirit to enable us to walk and overcome the flesh is found in these words: "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24, emphasis added)
It all goes back to the cost of Discipleship: All who would be Jesus’ disciple will deny self, take up their cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24f).
To summarize: The spiritual individual is a mature believer who demonstrates a relationship with the Holy Spirit and is spiritually discerning. The spiritual are grounded in the Word of Truth. Where the spiritual once were driven by their fleshly passions and desires, they now are driven by the spiritual passions and desires for God.
NEXT POST: The Good Soldier Knows His Enemy
End Notes 1 epagonizomai 2 epi and agonizomai. 3 agon
4 sugkakopatheo, Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic edition of the 2nd ed. (New York: United Bible societies, 1989; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). 285. 5 The root is pascho and means “to experience something that comes from outside.” [Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1985; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). 798.]
6 The root is empleko [ἐμπλέκω] meaning sheep or hares getting their wool or hare entangled with thorns. [William Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature : A Translation and Adaption of the Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition of Walter Bauer's Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch Zu Den Schrift En Des Neuen Testaments Und Der Ubrigen Urchristlichen Literatur, electronic ed. of the 2nd ed., rev. and augmented. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). 256.] 7 When young recruits arrive at camp they are particularly discouraged in becoming involved with members of the opposite sex, especially avoid getting married. Their responsibilities towards spouse and family can prove distracting, especially if they learn of bad news from home (viz. “Dear John Letters”). Note the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the unmarried who because of an unspecified impending “distress” stated it was better to remain unmarried because they will be “free from concern,” that is having their concerns divided between serving the Lord and pleasing their spouse. The Apostle doesn’t make it a requirement but simply illustrates the distraction marital responsibilities creates in service to God. (1 Corinthian 7:26f). This is not offered to suggest celibacy as a requirement for being a good soldier of Christ, but to illustrate one way that becoming entangled in distracting affairs cannot only prove distracting but deadly.
8 Consider the companion book, CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH: And the Call for Intervention in The Epistle of Jude. (Not in print at this time)
10 ἀνακρίνω, anakrino /an·ak·ree·no. anakrínō, anákrisis. anakrínō means “to investigate,” and refers mostly to judicial interrogation (Lk. 23:14; Acts 4:9; 12:19, etc.). Paul uses it ironically in 1 Cor. 4:3. In 1 Cor. 14:24 it means “to inquire into.” It can be used for the searching of Scripture in Acts 17:11 and for spiritual discernment in 1 Cor. 2:14-15. The spiritual judge all things and are judged by none, not in superiority, but because they are subject to the Lord and are thus the servants of others. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 473.